It's been known for a long time that copper has antimicrobial properties, but if it is so potent, why does it seem to have no effect on human skin or really any large animal?

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    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copper_toxicity $\endgroup$ – Alex Reynolds Mar 20 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ That's like if you ingest copper, not if you merely touch it. $\endgroup$ – Bangarang Mar 20 at 23:54
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    $\begingroup$ Copper does affect human skin. If you're in contact with it for a while, it will turn the skin bluish-green. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Mar 21 at 3:46
  • $\begingroup$ One possible reason is that humans are eukaryotes, while most microbes are prokaryotes. There are significant differences in the cell chemistry, which explains things like why antibiotics work against (some) bacteria without much affecting the person that takes them. See e.g. livescience.com/65922-prokaryotic-vs-eukaryotic-cells.html for more. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Mar 21 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf: Why does copper turn the skin bluish-green? Can you give a reference? Is the bluish-green color come from oxidized copper? $\endgroup$ – Hans Apr 1 at 2:28

The outermost layer of your skin consists mostly of dead cells, the Stratum corneum. Copper can't kill what's already dead.

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  • $\begingroup$ Seems reasonable, but why doesn't it corrode the dead skin fast enough to cause more significant burn damage if it kills microbes quickly? $\endgroup$ – Bangarang Mar 20 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Bangarang copper doesn't doesn't burn cells it poisons them. Dead cells aren't affected by being poisoned. The Status corneum is not just one layer, it's 15-20 layers. The cells are constantly being shed and then replaced from below. $\endgroup$ – Charles E. Grant Mar 21 at 0:32

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